20 Essential Qualities of a Good Nurse

Certain qualities of a good nurse are essential when asking for a raise, applying for a new job or asking for a job promotion.

When it comes to promoting professional nurses, the following are some of the traits hiring managers and nurse managers are looking for.

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Qualities of a Good Nurse

1. Ability to Communicate Effectively

One of the most important qualities of a professional nurse is the ability to communicate. Good nurses are great communicators, and not by accident.

21 ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF A GOOD NURSE
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The ability to communicate is a skill that enhances all areas of life including relationships and career advancement.

Communication is a two-way street, and good communication cannot solely rely on your ability to speak clearly.

There are two channels involved:

  • The person sending information.
  • The person receiving information.

Good communicators make sure the person they are communicating with receives the information the way they intended and excels at being the sending and receiving end of the channel.

For example, good communication becomes very important when you are giving instructions to patients. You want the patient to understand your instructions the way you intended.

Good communication skills are also very important when giving constructive feedback.

2. Problem Solvers

Do you address problems or are you the problem?

Do you go around complaining of issues or are you proposing solutions to problems you see?

You can sit around and whine and complain all day long, but the professional nurse sees a problem and takes it upon themselves to help address the issue.

3. Good Interpersonal Skills

A lot of my nursing career has been spent interacting with patients, doctors and other members of the treatment team.

Many people are involved in the treatment of a patient, and it can become overwhelming complex for the patient.

As a nurse, you are the liaison connecting the puzzle for all the care members.

Good nurses know that an excellent interpersonal skills are needed to work with so many personalities and disciplines.

4. Ability to Handle Stress

During your nursing job, you will encounter a lot of stress.

Pressure can be felt by the patients and their families or the doctor and other members of the care team.

One thing is certain, in your nursing profession you’re going to encounter stress.

Great nurses figure out ways to manage stress, so they can deliver high-quality, exceptional care, no matter the circumstance.

When good nurses are hit by pressure, they might stumble, but they do not go down completely. They get back up.

Related Article: The Least Stressful Nurse Jobs

5. Detail Oriented

In your nursing career, you need to pay attention to detail.

Many times, life and death decisions are based on small details.

For example, some medications have very narrow therapeutic ranges, and exact doses need to be given.

Some patients get in critical states and noticing small increment changes is vital.

To give high-quality care, you need to pay attention to details.

6. Empathy

Empathy is defined as understanding and experiencing one’s feelings (source).

In healthcare, your patients will experience a lot of pain and suffering.

Good nurses recognize how their patients feel and know how to navigate not only the care given but also their own emotional responses.

Be mindful not to get burned out by these emotions and feelings.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the emotions, which can compromise your nursing practice.

7. Advocate

Advocacy is a very important trait of a good nurse.

Professional nurses understand quality care in nursing is centered around advocating for your patient.

For example:

  • Before a procedure starts do you make sure your patient understands the risks and benefits of the procedure?
  • Do you take the time to answer questions even if you’re being rushed by another member of the care team?
  • When your patient is being discharged, do you make sure they are well informed about their discharge instructions?

Being a good nurse is the same as saying being a patient advocate.

The question is, are you a patient advocate.

8. Flexible

Flexibility might be necessary for all jobs, but some positions demand it more than others.

Nursing is one of those professions where flexibility is essential.

For example, your schedule is atypical. While some nurses do work the 9-5 grind, many don’t.

What this means is you could be working a 12- or 16-hour day grind.

You might have to work weekends or nights, and don’t forget about those holidays also.

You will feel it when you’re working, and your friends or family are home, out having fun or sleeping.

On the positive side, you get to be off when other people are working.

You have the flexibility to complete your errands when others are at work, missing the big rush of weeknights and weekends!

For the longest time, I never had to take off work to go to the doctor or the mechanic because I always had several days I was off during the weekday.

Healthcare is a fast-changing industry, and it requires flexibility.

What was fine today might not be a couple of years from now.

Practices for technology, procedures, and medications seem to be continually changing.

Nurses must keep up with all the changes.

9. Keep up with Evidence-Based Practice

Healthcare is ever-changing. What was once the standard and safest practice five years ago could be considered an unsafe practice and risky today.

Professional nurses know their training needs to be at the top of its game and good nurses know evidence-based practice (EBP) is what yields the best results.

10. Care about their Personal Brand

Professional nurses know their personal brand as a nurse matters.

They might not care what other people think, but they do care what people think of their personal brand.

The professional nurse crafts their personal brand and actively manages it.

They make sure qualities related to integrity, and hard work are all attributes people think of when their name comes up.

11. High Physical Stamina

Did I mention as a nurse you could be working long hours on your feet?

“No lift facility” or not, you’re going to be dealing with big equipment, heavy beds, and obese patients.

Doing all that becomes easier if you are a high energy person but at the least work on your physical stamina.

This could be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevators.

12. Find Humor in the Little Things

You’re going to be in challenging and high-stress environments.

It may not be easy to find humor in things let alone laugh when you are in the thick of it.

I encourage you to try to find humor in the little things.

You will enjoy your job more, and the risk of burnout will decrease.

13. Further your Education

Professional nurses are always looking for opportunities for continuing education.

Continuing education looks a couple of different ways.

Some go back to school.

It could be registered nurses with associates going back to school to get their bachelor’s or masters.

There are some who never want to see a classroom ever again.

They can still educate themselves through continuing education (CE) or getting certified in their specialty.

Continuing education makes you more knowledgeable in current practice, and certification makes you look more competent and professional.

14. Care for your Patient

If you ask a patient what are some attributes they would want their nurse to have I would bet caring is probably top on their list.

Sharon Hdacek said,

“Bound by paperwork, short on hands, sleep, and energy…nurses are rarely short on caring.”

Sharon Hdacek
From “21 Essential Qualities of a Good Nurse”  Quote by Sharon Hdacek  “Bound by paperwork, short on hands, sleep, and energy… nurses are rarely short on caring.”
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Val Saintsbury also said,

“A nurse dispense comfort, compassion, and caring without even a prescription.”

Val Saintsbury
From “21 Essential Qualities of a Good Nurse”  Quote by Val Saintsbury  “A Nurse dispense comfort, compassion, and caring without even a prescription.”
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The nursing profession prides itself on the level of care given. Make sure you set aside energy to provide this care every day.

15. Leave Lasting Impression

Every nurse has the potential to leave a lasting impression.

Bad nurses leave a terrible lasting impression, and good nurses will leave a remarkable feeling.

I’m not talking about patients remembering your name. I’m talking about the impression the experience leaves.

How did the nurses make them feel during the lowest point of their lives Maya Angelou summed this up well when she said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou
From “21 Essential Qualities of a Good Nurse”  Maya Angelou quote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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Remember this quote when you’re working.

16. Honesty

Did you know nurses are highly trusted individuals in the community?

Nurses are regularly considered by many to be one of the most trusted professions in the country (source).

The community trusts nurses to do their job with integrity.

Dishonest behavior such as lying destroys trust in the nursing profession and makes your personal brand worth nothing.

Mistakes are bound to happen.

If you make a mistake, fess up and assist in coming up with a solution.

Do not try to cover it up.

17. Self-awareness

Self-awareness as a nurse is important.

You’re going to deal with tough situations that might challenge your beliefs, perception, and personal bias.

For example, what if you had a personal history of abuse and are caring for a patient who has a history of abuse.

Alternatively, perhaps you are taking care of a patient who is well known for being abusive.

Both scenarios are challenging, and in both situations, exceptional care must be given.

Being able to handle situations like that requires a high level of self and emotional awareness.

18. Willingness to Serve

Much of nursing is service-oriented.

When you serve, please make sure to serve with grace.

I once heard the following statements:

“Service is humble.”

Also

“Love is the foundation of service, and service is expressed in deeds more than in words.”

Simple things such as making eye contact with patients and family members are all part of the job and can go a long way in uplifting the spirit of your patient.

The nursing profession is ultimately improved by having a customer service mentality.

19. Willingness to Lead

You may not have a formal title, but all nurses are leaders in some fashion.

Family members and different members of the community will be looking up to you for example, especially in health-related matters.

Many eyes will be watching your example as a healthcare leader, whether you’re on the job or not.

20. Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is a must for nurses.

Everyday decisions will dramatically affect a patient’s life.

Being able to think critically is the difference between treating a patient with just one problem and treating a patient with many comorbidities.

Did I mention you’re dealing with messy family dynamics at the same time?

A nurse that thinks critically will be able to see how decisions are interconnected and their rippling effects.

Nurses must be able to analyze a situation and make quick judgments based on their analysis.

21. Patience

Your patience will be tested just about every single day.

Make sure you pass that test.

It could be dealing with difficult patients, or it could be dealing with other nurses on your unit who are difficult.

Don’t forget about the other potential difficult coworkers such as providers, hospital administrator and so forth.

Everything can and will test your patience at some point.

You could even lose patience with yourself.

Remember to keep your cool.

If needed, take a quick timeout to gather yourself and keep on going.

Final Thoughts

Being a nurse can be challenging, but it’s a very rewarding career.

Did we miss any other qualities of a good nurse?

Please share this article so we can get the word out and educate others.

Related Articles on Qualities of a Good Nurse

  • This is great tips for nurses to emulate. As a Medical Laboratory Technician, I am also adopting some of these qualities. Thanks for sharing.

  • Andrea says:

    And probably the requirements for a lot of jobs

  • Jo says:

    This is a great list for anyone thinking of entering the medical profession in any capacity, be they consultant to hospital porter. Great post

  • Sonila says:

    Great list of skills!!! I had some great nurses in the hospital both times i gave birth to my kids and they all had a lot of the skills in this list.

  • ♡Stephanie Stebbins♡ says:

    My auntie and a cousin (and my grandmother, RIP) are both nurses. I am definitely going to share this with them!

  • Melissa Peterson says:

    I’m going to go over this list with my students as they prepare for mock interviews and graduation on December.

    • Thomas Uzuegbunem says:

      Sweet! I hope your students find it very helpful. If they come up with other qualities of a good nurse that’s important please share it.

  • Fay says:

    I really loved that you mentioned that nurses should be honest and have integrity. My grandpa is in a situation where he needs constant help from all of us, and we are trying to figure out a better solution that will help him be more comfortable. I suggested to my parents that we look for a nurse for him, and we are doing our research to find the best candidate.

    • Thomas Uzuegbunem BSN RN says:

      Honesty and integrity is an important quality to look for in a nurse. I wish you the best of luck in your search.

  • Jenna Hunter says:

    I’m looking for a good nurse for my dad. Because of this, I appreciated your advice about finding a nurse that communicates efficiently. My husband and I are looking for a nursing home, so we’ll have to make sure they communicate well.

  • Kate Hansen says:

    It makes sense why you would want to find a nurse who can problem solve. My sister and I are wanting to find a nurse for my dad because he has a lot of medical problems that make it hard for him to do a lot of things on his own. We’ll make sure to keep this information in mind as we search for a nurse.

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